By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
They always make me cry.
My throat catches and tears trace trails down my cheeks each time I watch countless children open their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes on the Samaritan’s Purse informational video – it’s just so . hopeful.
The shoebox-shaped hole in my heart comes from annual trips to Wal-Mart (since 1996) to fill a shoebox with items I dubbed dull: toothbrushes, socks, underwear, hard candy and school supplies.
A gift that would make the average American child cry tears of anguish, the shoeboxes represent more than another Christmas gift to the children who receive them – they embody love and extend hope.
During this festive season I so love, little is more sobering than peering in such a basic box and contemplating the pile of gifts that awaits me. But time spent wallowing in guilt over my American privilege is ill spent – active programs such as this one better serve the suffering than my seasonal shame.
My brother usually filled a box for a boy his age, opting to focus on the ages 5-9 category rather than the challenging ages 2-4 or much-overlooked 10-14. And of course, I always imagined a girl much like myself gripped the box I carefully filled.
From my hands to larger boxes at my church, to shipping trucks to cargo planes, the boxes fan out to one of about 100 countries, joining the estimated 7.6 million shoeboxes given through Operation Christmas Child.
These 100 countries represent 45 different languages volunteers will use to tell the children about Christ – children who are dying, starving and battling daily.
A book, “The Greatest Gift of All,” accompanies each shoebox as a tangible way for these children to learn and relearn the story of the man who died to set them free.
A story that liberates me daily, I can’t imagine the bonds the Gospel surely breaks for some who suffer in conditions I can hardly imagine. What better way to respond to trite phrases about remembering the “reason for the season” than to offer someone the knowledge we taut as most precious.
This year’s collection week is Nov. 12-19, and in Abilene the First United Methodist Church, 202 Butternut Street, will collect boxes to be shipped across the world.
For less than $35, a shoebox can accomplish so much. It can introduce impoverished children to Christ and a hope that will far outlast the yellow pencils and rainbow-colored lollipops. It can put a face on an issue we are so far removed from as we pluck basic items from amid outrageously priced novelty Christmas gifts. And it is almost guaranteed to spur a bout of joyful tears – as a child across the world clutches a first Christmas gift, as a volunteer places it in his hands and as someone in America watches the video footage a year later.
At least, they always make me cry.